The recent announcement that athletes will be financially rewarded for podium finishes at the Paralympic Games came as a relief for Moncton swimmer Danielle Dorris.
"When I found out, I was like, 'Oh my God, it finally happened, we don't have to fight for it anymore,'" she said.
The two-time Paralympian and medal winner said she didn't know the move was in the works, so it came as a surprise to her.
The Paralympic Performance Recognition program was announced this week. The financial rewards will come into effect beginning this summer at Paris 2024.
Dorris wears her gold medal after winning the women's 50m butterfly at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. She won a silver medal, as well. (Scott Grant/Canadian Paralympic Committee/The Canadian Press)
Canadian Paralympians will now receive $20,000 for winning gold, $15,000 for silver and $10,000 for bronze — equal to the amount Canadian Olympians receive.
An initial $8-million endowment created by the Canadian Paralympic Committee's philanthropic partner, the Paralympic Foundation of Canada, is creating this program to ensure a sustainable funding model.
Dorris has attended competitions all around the world, and according to the Canadian Paralympic Committee, when she earned her spot on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games team, she was Canada's youngest Paralympic swimmer — ever — at the age of 13.
We are athletes, period. - Danielle Dorris
At her second Paralympics in Tokyo, she earned two medals, a gold and a silver.
Dorris said she hasn't bothered to do the math to see what she would have earned with her previous performances because she thinks that would put pressure on her to earn more medals in the future, which she says isn't the point.
Still, she said the prize money is a welcome reward.
Matthew Kinnie, a Para cyclist and the president of Parasport New Brunswick, said he thinks the biggest issue before this announcement was the lack of parity between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Matt Kinnie, president of Parasport New Brunswick, said he thinks having this financial compensation could make a big difference in how athletes train. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News )
"Paralympic athletes dedicate a whole lot of time, same as any athlete," he said. "It's equally as professional and people kind of have to sacrifice a lot to get to that."
The Riverview athlete said he thinks having this financial reward might increase the effort and the money athletes are willing to put toward their training.
It might make them think a little harder about paying for the extra expense of a training camp or piece of equipment.
"Essentially, it's kind of like buying into the lottery a little bit," he said.
"It might make any investment required, you know, the payoff for that might look a little bit different now that we know that there's that light [at] the end of the tunnel."
Kinnie has competed in Para cycling on the world stage. He said the biggest issue before the recognition program announcement was the lack of parity between Olympic and Paralympic athletes. (Submitted by Matt Kinnie)
Dorris agrees. She said as someone who is in the pool at least two hours a day, and resting or working out for the remainder, a full-time job isn't attainable.
She works part-time at the IHop restaurant in Moncton, but says that isn't where she pictures herself in 10 years. So from a career standpoint, she thinks getting some sort of financial reward for medal finishes could help with training funds and living expenses.
She also thinks the recognition might give athletes a bit of a boost in terms of motivation, and she's looking forward to the summer to show how much it really means to the Paralympic athletes.
"It shows that people are finally seeing us as athletes and not just Para athletes," she said.
"We are athletes, period."